Documentaries, Biopics, and Reality Television
Chapter 3. “You Know that Kids Are Getting a Really Crappy Education Now”: Teaching Documentaries through Interpretive, Ideological, and Activist Approaches
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“YOU KNOW THAT KIDS ARE GETTING A REALLY CRAPPY EDUCATION NOW”
Teaching Documentaries through Interpretive, Ideological, and Activist Approaches
For the past three summers, I’ve shown the documentary Waiting for Superman (Guggenheim, 2010) in my secondary school curriculum course as a way to expand our discussion of school choice and teacher accountability, both of which have been “hot” topics in education for the past several years. The quotation in the title for this chapter comes from that documentary; the words were spoken by Michelle Rhee, who is featured in this film as the chancellor of Washington, DC, schools. Her statement, “You wake up every morning and you know that kids are getting a really crappy education now,” refers to the state of public schools in Washington, DC. The filmmakers, in order to show her as an agent of change, feature her for approximately 10 minutes of the film, following her from schools to her office to her car as she makes what appear to be harsh decisions that are designed to significantly improve the schools in DC. The camera captures her firing principals, closing schools, and battling with teacher unions. The highlighting of these decisions suggests that the filmmakers believe they will improve the “crappy education” students will get. Because documentaries about schools imply ways to improve education, those of us who use them in the classroom should consider how our university students might interrogate the ways those suggestions are...
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